I don't usually feature 'new product' from BrumBeat pioneers of the 1960s but in this case I'm happy to make an exception. E.L.O. star Jeff Lynne (who still doesn't look a day over thirty seven) has produced a labour of love in the form of his latest album titled 'Long Wave'.
This collection comprises songs Jeff first heard as a boy on his crystal radio set (remember them?) along with those his father enjoyed listening to on the radio (or 'The Wireless' as it was often known in those days). While admitting to not being a big fan of some of this music at the time, the memory of those pre-rock 'n' roll era recordings stuck in Jeff's mind resulting in his tribute to songs that he has since learned to love.
Those who know the Jeff Lynne story can list his obvious influences as being American 1950s rock 'n' roll along with British groups like The Shadows and The Beatles. Such inspiration led to Jeff's early groups (The Andicaps, and The Chads), which in turn paved the way to his emergence as a major musical talent in The Idle Race and later The Move. Jeff's new album shows a side that few of his fans may be aware of.
Jeff says: "I call this new album Long Wave because all of the songs I sing on it are the ones heard on long wave radio when I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, England. These songs take me back to that feeling of freedom in those days and summon up the feeling of first hearing those powerful waves of music coming in on my old crystal set. My dad also had the radio on all the time, so some of these songs have been stuck in my head for fifty years."
Revisiting some territory previously explored on 1990's 'Armchair Theatre' album, Long Wave has Jeff's own re-recordings of classic songs as diverse as 'Smile' (Charlie Chaplin), 'Running Scared' (Roy Orbison), 'So Sad' (The Everly Brothers), and 'She' (Charles Aznavour). The instruments on these recordings were played and overdubbed by Jeff Lynne himself as "The Jeffs" as you will see if you look up his entertaining video for 'Mercy Mercy' by Don Covey. That particular song Jeff recalls, was performed by the Idle Race in pubs and clubs around Birmingham back in the 1960s. By contrast, Jeff's backing tracks to Bobby Darin's 'Beyond The Sea' was particularly challenging he says due to a multitude of difficult chord changes.
What really comes through here is the strong melodies on these songs that were likely an inspiration to Jeff years later while composing some of E.L.O.'s best music. His own talent for rich melody and vocal harmonies became a trade-mark on almost all his many recordings over the years. I'm sure that even Lennon & McCartney would not deny the influence of tunes heard on long wave radio in their very young days. Mind you, Jeff's efforts on this disc feature his patented high-polish production far removed from the crackly radio reception of the 1950s. The guitar sounds and vocal harmonies are amazing as always.
My only gripe is the songs are relatively short with the total disc running time less than half an hour - which will only leave you wanting more once you've heard them all. My personal faves are; 'She' (a gorgeous production), 'So Sad', 'Mercy Mercy', 'At Last' (Etta James), and Chuck Berry's 'Let It Rock' (another stage favorite performed by the Idle Race). The packaging artwork is great too, along with the disc itself that forms a detailed replica of the tuning dial found on a long wave radio set. Make yourself a hot cup of Cadburys cocoa, adjust the cat's whisker, sit back and enjoy!
For the latest information about Jeff Lynne, E.L.O. and The Move, visit the Face The Music web site at: www.ftmusic.com